Full Text of Email sent by UHPA Leadership to all UHPA Members Thursday August 18, 2011
To: All UHPA members
Subject: HSTA Leadership Undermining Public Union Rights
HSTA’s hearings before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) have recently grabbed headlines in the news, but UH faculty should know there is a much more important story that is brewing beneath the surface out of the public eye. The subtext has grave implications for all public sector unions, including UHPA.
Collective bargaining is the most efficient and effective way for an employer and union to reach an agreement. We believe the legal process should be used to clarify and enhance collective bargaining; not be a substitute for it.
UHPA is deeply troubled by the actions the leadership of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is undertaking to promote its position before the HLRB. HSTA’s leadership has filed a series of legal actions, including attacks on the character of other union leaders, that are resulting in more harm to Hawaii’s teachers and that could jeopardize the rights of all public sector unions, including the right to strike.
Unfortunately, HSTA is not only undermining their own case by deploying these tactics, but they are also impacting the lives of all members represented by public unions. The rationale for these tactics is transparent: they are designed to divert attention away from the core issues of collective bargaining and the need to protect the rights of all public union employees.
HSTA leaders are making decisions that appear to ignore the consequences of their actions. As a result, HSTA has alienated virtually everyone who has a relationship with HSTA.
• HSTA’s leadership has alleged that the leaders of other public unions have made agreements with the Governor and that UHPA conspired against Hawaii’s teachers and prohibited their right to bargain. As a result, more than 88 individuals, some representing the leaders of UHPA, HGEA and UPW, have been subpoenaed to testify at the HLRB hearings. The notion of a conspiracy is an insult.
•HSTA’s leadership has sought to have HGEA’s legal counsel barred from participating in the HLRB proceeding.
•Recently, HSTA’s leadership filed motions charging the HLRB with unfair and unethical practices, alleging bias and deliberately delaying hearings on the prohibited practice claims and other issues. As a result of this challenge one HLRB member recused herself due to her spouse being an HSTA member. This is an unfortunate and unintended consequence of their efforts.
When HSTA filed its prohibited practice claim with the HLRB, UHPA filed a petition to intervene to preserve the right to strike. HLRB accepted UHPA as an intervener over the objections of HSTA. In addition, UHPA has been informed that HSTA will seek to have the HLRB order overturned in Circuit Court. If HSTA is successful this would prohibit UHPA from addressing issues that impact the rights of faculty.
UHPA filed the petition because of the implications for UHPA and other unions. Unlike some other labor unions, if there were an impasse in negotiations between UHPA and the State, faculty members would be allowed to strike and would not be subject to interest arbitration. HSTA’s hearing could affect that right and UHPA wants to ensure good-faith bargaining efforts can continue.
While UHPA is confident HSTA’s charges are baseless, it is troubling that Hawaii’s teachers are the ones who must endure the circuitous and destructive route HSTA leadership has chosen as the means to obtain a contract. These tactics create unnecessary drama; not a settled contract.
LINK: UHPA Petition to Intervene
ILind: HSTA break from EUTF at root of fight?
HSTA’s relations with other public employee unions have been strained since 2005, when the teachers union bolted from the Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund, which was set up as a centralized provider of health benefits to state and county workers. HSTA’s move to its own health trust removed its members, generally considered better health risks, out of the general pool of union employees, resulting in higher costs and higher health care premiums for other public workers.
The legislature declined to reauthorize the separate HSTA health benefits plan and it expired this year, with teachers being moved back into the larger EUTF.